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CNN NEWSROOM

Health Care Debate Moves Ahead; White House Hails Senate Vote; Four U.S. Service Members Killed in Afghanistan; Best Black Friday Deals

Aired November 23, 2009 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Here's "CNN NEWSROOM" with Heidi Collins. Hi, Heidi.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christine and Kiran. That's right. . We're working hard right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. In fact, we've got the very latest on four U.S. soldiers dead in Afghanistan in 24 hours. We're going to have a live report coming up from Kabul in just a moment.

Also, write up those holiday gift shopping lists. We're going to be telling you about Black Friday, because as you know, it is four days away. We're going to tell you what some big retailers are doing to get you in the stores even earlier.

And a sad fact in this holiday season. One in six Americans are going hungry. We talked with four people from food banks across the country on their challenges of feeding more with less.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Right off the bat this morning, new developments in two critical issues for the Obama administration. First off, health care. As you know, our Brianna Keilar is reporting on the milestone that happened over the weekend in the Senate. We'll also get to that. And Jill Dougherty has some of the White House reaction to that vote in the Senate.

Meanwhile, as the president nears a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan, our Frederik Pleitgen is reporting on the very latest troop deaths. We'll get to all of it.

Let's begin, though, this morning, the health care reform process moving forward in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: On this vote, the yeas are 60, the nays are 39. Three-fifths of the Senate, as dually chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: In a Saturday night vote, the Senate agreed to begin formal debate on a bill after Thanksgiving. While a few Democrats provided key votes to avoid a filibuster, there is still division in the party over the bill as it stands right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: In the end, I don't want four Democratic senators dictating to the other 56 of us and to the country when the public option has this much support that it's not going to be in it. And I echo what Michael said, is that people want every option.

If we're going to have -- if we're telling people you have to buy insurance, we shouldn't tell them that they've got to buy insurance from a private insurance company. But in the end, I think that all four of our colleagues surveyed -- looked at this bill in the end and say -- I don't think they want to be on the wrong side of history.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I worry about a government-run plan that would be subject to recommendations that might be applied universally without respect to patients. I am concerned about that. It's not that you can't fix some of those concerns, but you can't fix every one of them. And I am concerned that if it's -- if it's turned over -- look, the insurance industry has its own challenges.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar has been following this story all weekend long. She's joining us now from Washington with more this morning.

Brianna, good morning to you. Are Democratic leaders going to sort of have to thread a needle here?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Heidi. You know this was a vote Saturday just to begin debate on the Senate floor. And yesterday on the Sunday shows, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Ben Nelson, who you heard just there, who voted -- both of them voted yes on Saturday, they basically said they wouldn't vote for this bill as-is with the government-run insurance plan in it.

So two others who voted yes, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas -- they also have major reservations about the bill that tells you if Democrats lose even a single one of these senators on this issue of the so-called public option, they're going to have to look across the aisle to Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of them moderate Republicans, for support there, Heidi.

COLLINS: Well, so then the bill would change?

KEILAR: It would have to get those 60 votes the Democrats need in order to pass this. And even the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, indicated yesterday, leaders know this and they're open to adjustments on the public option. But if it turns out the Democrats do need Republican support, Senator Olympia Snowe has this idea of a public option with a trigger, meaning the government- run insurance plan only kicks in if insurance companies, say, don't bring down costs or they don't cover enough Americans.

But of course it's still an open question if they'd have to move to getting that Republican support.

COLLINS: Yes. What would the timeline, then, look like? Any idea at this point?

KEILAR: Well, the next step is Monday, debate on the Senate floor begins after Thanksgiving. The goal, voting on the Senate bill. The Senate bill. There's still more ahead of that.

COLLINS: Yes.

KEILAR: Voting on that before breaking for holidays, so before for Christmas. But the goal for passing a final bill, you know, one that the House and the Senate would hash out their differences on and they would both have to pass, the goal for that really slipping into the New Year now.

Democrats, their ultimate aim is getting this health care bill to President Obama's desk before his State of the Union address at the end of January so that he can talk about, obviously, what a success it has been. It will certainly be difficult for Democrat if he is giving that address and this isn't done yet, Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes. Understood. All right, Brianna Keilar, appreciate that. Thanks.

The White House released a statement hailing the Senate vote as soon as it passed. The president said he is gratified and looking forward to a thorough and productive debate.

CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is joining us now live from the White House with more on that side of things.

So, Jill, how involved do we expect the president to be in this next phase?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Heidi, look at those statement. It is actually pretty brief. That gives you an indication of some of the strategy that we're likely to see from the president. Because, after all, there was a period where you saw the president out a lot, making the case to the public, talking about these specific issues.

But now, when the ball really has moved to Capitol Hill, it's a very sensitive debate over these subjects, you know, abortion, the public option, et cetera. So the senior White House officials that we're speaking to are saying that, essentially, the president is going to continue to get updates.

He's got his team on Capitol Hill, you can be sure, talking with those senators, talking with members of Congress. But essentially, as they're saying, the priorities will be hashed out on Capitol Hill. We could hear from the president. Of course, not likely, this week, Thanksgiving. And then even down the road, you do have some other priorities of the president, namely Afghanistan. But I think you'd have to say, Heidi, that it's really going to be playing out very much on Capitol Hill and trying to get those votes that they need.

COLLINS: Absolutely. All right, Jill Dougherty, thank you.

The White House may be feeling a little bit relieved about the health care vote, at least clearing the first hurdle in the Senate, but they are still facing serious pressure over deciding on the appropriate war strategy for Afghanistan.

A senior administration official says a decision is not expected until after Thanksgiving, regarding troop levels. But the clock is ticking dangerously for the troops already in Afghanistan. Four U.S. service members have died in the last 24 hours. And now NATO secretary general is urging member states to send in more troops.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is joining us now live from Kabul with more on this.

So, Fred, first, tell us, if you would, about the incidents. What happened here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. Those were actually three separate incidents and they happened yesterday and today in southern and eastern Afghanistan. And the deadliest of those attacks, two U.S. service members were killed on Sunday in southern Afghanistan in a roadside bomb attack.

Also, one American killed also on Sunday in southern Afghanistan in a firefight. Now in the third attack, which happened today, another U.S. service member was killed in eastern Afghanistan. And it showcases once again one of the big problems that the Americans are having here in Afghanistan. Those are those roadside bombs, those IED attacks.

And I can tell you, I've been in touch with U.S. soldiers down in southern Afghanistan and they say they're really trying to work on this problem. They're really trying to devise new strategies, look for new ways to prevent these attacks, and also, to protect themselves better from these attacks.

But still, they say, it is a major problem and it is something that is very, very dangerous to those forces down there in southern Afghanistan -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Sure. Fred, are you hearing any response from where you are, from officials regarding the number of troops being sent there?

PLEITGEN: Yes. You know, I've been in touch with NATO throughout the better part of the day and they say they have gotten some very positive responses to the secretary general going around and asking more troops from NATO member nations. They say, first of all, of course, the UK is willing to commit some 500 more troops. They've already said if other NATO members are willing to do the same. Also, apparently, the South Koreans are saying they're willing to commit more troops as well.

However, they're also saying that there are a number of nations that still have reservations. And they say the thing they want to see now is what so many people want to see, and that is the strategy of the Obama administration. They want to see where all of this is going, where America is going.

How important is the emphasis going to be on training Afghan forces. How many more combat forces are going to be needed in southern Afghanistan and eastern Afghanistan. That's something that many member nations say they want to see before they're willing to commit more resources. Because they also say they have to see what sort of resources are needed before they can actually make a commitment -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Interesting. All right, Fred Pleitgen live from Kabul this morning. Thank you, Fred.

Hit the gym or risk not getting a diploma. A college forcing students to think about getting in shape.

And astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis start taking a walk on the wild side. We'll tell you about the third spacewalk of their mission.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A little bit closer to home, good morning, I'm meteorologist Rob Marciano in the CNN Severe Weather Center. It's a big travel week for the big holiday on Thursday. We'll run down that. Plus, historic flooding across Turkey and the UK. That's all coming when the CNN NEWSROOM comes right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who wants to pay? Hear them out. Right now! (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: In the San Francisco area, there are new allegations of police brutality. This camera phone video shows a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer pushing an unruly passenger toward a window and the glass shattering; both men were injured. And this video was shot by a passenger and posted on the Internet.

Here's what a BART spokesman told CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINTON JOHNSON, BART SPOKESMAN (via phone): The video was posted by somebody who has jumped to conclusions as to what he believes happened. And we're not saying that that person is wrong or right. What we do need to say to that person and to the rest of the world that we're going to look at all the facts, not just what you see on the video, and then we'll make a conclusion as to what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: The suspect's sister tells CNN her brother has battled psychiatric problems and was released from a hospital earlier this month. Saturday's incident follows the fatal New Year's Day shooting of an unarmed passenger. That officer, who has since resigned, now faces a murder charge.

Right now space shuttle astronauts have strapped on their tool belts and ventured outside for a few chores. These are some of the cool, live pictures that we have. This morning's spacewalk was delayed by about an hour, though. The astronauts are hooking up a fresh oxygen tank on the International Space Station and getting some science experiments under way. Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the space station on Wednesday.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano tracking your holiday travel weather and some amazing video where it's been raining a whole lot. You told me a little bit about this before we went on today.

MARCIANO: Yes. But they don't celebrate Thanksgiving over there, and that's a good thing, they've got their hands full with this weather. Check out some of the videos. You mentioned it, Heidi. All weekend long, it's just been pouring across the northern part of the UK. And several bridges being taken down. You can see that one. My goodness. Likely decades, if not centuries old. That's an old one.

And they saw about 14, 15 inches of rainfall with this storm, which doesn't sound like a lot, but typically even though the UK seems like a dreary, rain-sodden place, it rains often, but not like this. And that's the result. Unbelievable stuff.

All right. A little bit more rain on the way, but hopefully they'll get into a slightly drier pattern.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Yes.

MARCIANO: The animated Turkey on the map.

COLLINS: Yes. That's good stuff.

MARCIANO: Yes. You know what? That's going to be in about a half hour.

COLLINS: Really?

MARCIANO: So stay tuned.

COLLINS: I mean we wait an entire year for that.

MARCIANO: That definitely moves the meter on this one on the Nielsen's dial.

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: OK. Good. All right, Rob, we'll check back later on for that, absolutely.

Imagine studying hard through college, but then being told you're too fat to graduate. That's the dilemma at a historically black Lincoln College where the board has imposed a fitness requirement for graduating overweight students. The school says it simply is concerned about high rates of obesity and diabetes, especially in the African-American community. The decision has some students upset, but here's how one college professor defended it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JAMES DEBOY, PROFESSOR, LINCOLN UNIVERSITY: I want students never to be able to say is that when they're, God forbid, wheeled out on a gurney or a stretcher, no one ever told me this would happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: An honor student told the school newspaper, quote, "I didn't come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range, I came here to get an education."

Well, health experts agree with the school's intent, not its execution. One expert says forcing people to disclose this information can be awkward and in bad taste.

So we want to know what you think. Is it fair for the school to require students with a very high body mass index, that BMI that we've been talking about, to actually take a fitness court?

Go ahead and go to our blog, CNN.com/heidi. You'll find out a little bit more about the story and then tell us what you think. Once again, CNN.com/heidi. We'll share some of those posts coming up a little bit later on in the show.

Thursday is about being thankful for what you have, but the day after is often about what you don't have yet. We're helping you shop for the best deals this Black Friday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Police in Southern California say this Facebook posting may have led to the beating of a 12-year-old boy. Investigators in Los Angeles County say the message, "Kick a Ginger," urged kids to beat up a redhead. It was apparently inspired by the TV show "South Park." The boy was not seriously hurt. Police say there may be other victims.

Violence also the theme of the day for Reverend Al Sharpton. His National Action Network is calling for its national day of outrage to call attention to violence in urban communities. At 2:00 Eastern, people will come together in more than 20 U.S. cities. They'll be joined by families touched by gun violence.

In Pennsylvania, federal inspectors will be looking over the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant after a small amount of radiation was detected. Workers are being tested for radiation exposure, but safety officials say there was no threat to the public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel just as safe as anywhere. You could go 10 miles and it would go up in the air and come down on you. So I don't worry about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could have been worse. It could have been much worse. And it makes me want to just take preparations, like while I'm here, what would I do in case something like that happened? Like, what are the evacuation procedures?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Three Mile Island, as you remember, suffered a major accident in 1979. There was a partial meltdown inside one of its reactors.

One of the biggest shopping days of the year is almost here. We're giving you the inside track on the best deals this Black Friday.

Want to go to our personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, who's live in New York this morning.

Good morning to you, Gerri. Give us the ultimate Black Friday cheat sheet. Everybody wants to know where all the good deals are.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: That's right. Well, you know, the first thing you need to know is that it's going to be crazy this year. Do you think those early bird start times were early last year?

COLLINS: Yes.

WILLIS: 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m.? Uh-huh. Wal-Mart is going to be open 24 hours. Sales items will start at 5:00 a.m. Toys "R" us is open at midnight, Old Navy is opening at 3:00 a.m. Kohl's and Sears are opening at 4:00 a.m.

So you can see that the retailers are doing everything they can to get people on their stores. Wal-Mart is even letting customers camp out next to their desired items beginning on Thanksgiving day and their Black Friday specials will last from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

A lot of stores had pre-Black Friday sales. Wal-Mart and Sears have been running pre-Black Friday sales on weekends and that sometimes beats the Black Friday deals. So you know, you might want to stay home this year. If you don't want to be in the crowds, you're going to get deals no matter what.

COLLINS: See, I love it. I might be crazy, but it's one of my most favorite times to shop. Not going to be able to do it year. But -- so for those who really want to get in and get out, and they're going to be forced to do it on that day, where are they going to find the best deals?

WILLIS: Well...

COLLINS: In stores or should they be going online?

WILLIS: OK. Well, see, that's the great question. Obviously, online isn't going to be the door-busters sales that you see in the store. They give you those big deals with the door busters, because they just want you in the store so you might buy some other stuff.

But I have to tell you, the online sales are really beginning in earnest. You should really see some great deals beginning Wednesday. Ask for e-mail alerts from your favorite stores.

Black Friday coupons. JCPenney is already putting out Black Friday coupons, but be careful here because you need to read the fine print. The JCPenney coupons say that you can only use them between 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. So you want to watch all the details.

And here's just a little bit of advice for you. You know, if you're out there, you maybe -- you want to buy online, you're seeing deals on the merchandise that you want to buy, and at the end of the transaction, you get down to the bottom, and it asks you for a promotional code.

COLLINS: Yes.

WILLIS: Promotional code means here's some extra money we're going to throw your way. You definitely want that. Google the name of the retailer and the words "promotional codes" and you can score the extra deal. It's a little help, get that bill down just a little bit.

I know people out there are very weary at spending. The good news is, you're going to see lots of sales. There's no reason you have to really rush out this Friday.

COLLINS: Yes.

WILLIS: I think it's going to be promotional like this throughout the holiday season.

COLLINS: Wow. I feel like you just gave us like some major tips inside info there. Love it. Gerri Willis, thank you.

WILLIS: Good.

COLLINS: We'll check back a little later on.

They are two small businessmen with two separate outlooks on health care reform and they're putting their senator on notice.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Heidi Collins.

COLLINS: Stocks are trying to snap a three-day losing streak today and a rally overseas could be just the catalyst that Wall Street needs.

Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with a preview of the trading day.

Hi, there, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. Happy Monday.

We're expecting a higher open. That rally across the pond, fueled by new data showing the economic recovery there is picking up steam. And hopefully we'll get some economic data at the top of the hour, showing the same here in the U.S. We'll get a report on existing home sales, which are expected to jump nearly 1.5 percent in October.

The nation's largest automaker, meanwhile, is on optimistic about the housing sector. According to "USA Today," GM's sales analyst expects new home construction to rebound next year, and he says that will lift sales of pickup trucks. Truck sales, closely tied to the housing market, because builders use the vehicles for work, and, well, consumers use them too, to put all that junk that you put in your house in those trucks.

The list of bank failures, meanwhile, climbed this weekend, hitting 124. The FDIC shuttered commerce bank of Southwest Florida and allowed it to be taken over by a rival bank. So far, the number of bank failures this year is nearly five times the number that failed last year.

But the bulls aren't failing. Check it out. The Dow Industrials up nearly triple digits right now. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 each up all about one percent.

Meanwhile, Heidi, gold hit another record high at $1,167 as the dollar continues to weaken, and that's $1,167 an ounce.

COLLINS: Unreal. You know, we just recently gave my mom a beautiful gold necklace, but didn't tell her that Reilly won it at the arcade, you know, with the little pickup thing.

LISOVICZ: Gold-looking, has a gold appearance.

COLLINS: Hey, it's gold. I know that's good.

LISOVICZ: Keep polishing it.

COLLINS: All right. Susan, thank you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome. COLLINS: Senators won't begin formal debate on a democratic health care plan until after their Thanksgiving recess. But they are already making their points on the 2,074-page bill. The formal debate got the go ahead after a Saturday night vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DODD: On this vote, the yeas are 60, the nays are 39. Three- fifths of the Senate is dually chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative. The motion is agreed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Democrats needed their entire caucus, including two independents, to get enough votes to overcome a GOP filibuster. Now, Republicans continue to attack the bill saying it would harm the economy and the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: We don't often ignore the wishes of the American people. They are literally screaming, many of them, telling us, please don't pass this. Don't pass this bill. If the majority is hell bent on ignoring the wishes of the American people, they have 60 votes in the Senate. You would think that they might be able to do this, but I believe there are a number of Democratic senators who do care what the American people think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: All of us have made sure this bill pays for itself. We're embarking on something very new and very important, this health care bill. And we've all committed that it be paid for, something that hasn't happened in ten years. That is no longer business as usual. And that's why -- that's one of the reasons this bill is the right way to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: One key vote helping Democrats avoid that filibuster was that of Arkansas senator, Blanche Lincoln. Lincoln says she opposes the public option, but favors more debate.

CNN chief national correspondent, John King, visited Lincoln's home state and talked the two small business owners with different ideas on fixing health care.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Aisha's Fish and Chicken is a family business, known for its friendly service.

STANLEY WALKER, OWNER, AISHA'S FISH & CHICKEN: (INAUDIBLE) KING: Wings and cat fish.

WALKER: Five piece of wing, extra sauce on it.

KING: And a spicy signature sauce.

WALKER: $1.31.

KING: Tough times in a bad economy, so owner Stanley Walker says health care is out of the question.

WALKER: We're kind of having trouble keeping our head above water. We had it at one time, but it was so expensive, so we finally dropped it. I get a lot of complaints from my wife about it that we don't have health care.

KING: It is both a business decision and a personal risk. Stanley has diabetes and takes just half of his four pills a day prescription, because he can't afford the $500 a month bill of the full dose.

WALKER: Since I work by myself a lot and I'm moving all the time, I don't want to go somewhere and get into a coma because my sugar dropped too low. It's a situation where you actually take a gamble, but you can't afford not to.

KING: The family hopes Congress makes health care more affordable and thinks creating a new government-run public option is the best way to do that.

WALKER: If they don't do that, then I don't think I'd vote for them.

KING: It's an important statement, because African-American votes in places like Pine Bluff will be critical in next year's midterm elections. Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln faces a tough re-election race.

PROF. ART ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AT LITTLE ROCK: No question, they see an opportunity here, and an opportunity to win a Senate seat doesn't come often for Republicans in Arkansas.

Very historic. Bill Clinton tried to pass it in 1992.

KING: Senator Lincoln opposes a public option. And while that angers liberals, political scientist Art English says Lincoln needs to worry about conservative Democrats and independents in a state President Obama lost by 20 points.

ENGLISH: It's tough. It's like that show, "Malcolm in the Middle," but this time it's kind of, you know, Senator Blanche Lincoln in the middle, and it's been tough on her.

KING: Larry Levi owns this Little Rock brake shop. It has gone from paying 100 percent of employees' health care to 60 percent. LARRY LEVY, OWNER, STUART'S BRAKE SHOP: It kept going up, and as my employees got older, the premiums they begin to get so high. We just couldn't realistically afford it.

KING: But Levi sees disaster in Democratic plans to create a public option or a mandate that everyone buy health insurance.

LEVY: We don't know what it's going to cost us. We have health issues, I agree. There needs to be reform, but let's identify the problems that we have and let's fix those problems. Let's just don't throw out everything and start all over.

KING (on camera): They say that if taxes go up, it will only be on people above $250,000 a year. But you don't buy it?

LEVY: No, no, I don't. I don't buy it. We middle-class people will shoulder the burden. I have no question about that.

KING (voice-over): Levy describes himself as a conservative who did not vote for Mr. Obama, but does sometimes vote for conservative Democrats. He is not a fan of Senator Lincoln.

LEVY: She's playing games right now I think, you know. She's just kind of swaying back and forth. I know she's in a tough position, but if she will listen to her constituents, we don't want her to vote for this, I think.

KING (on camera): You think that she has -- she better listen?

LEVY: I think she needs to listen if she wants to keep her job, yes.

KING (voice-over): But Levy says Lincoln has already lost his vote. He sees Washington is veering too far left and sees the midterm elections as a chance to vote Republican and put the brakes on the Obama agenda.

John King, CNN, Little Rock.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Trying to decide between a public duty and religion. It is a tricky balancing act for some politicians. It has caused a bitter dispute for Congressman Patrick Kennedy with his church.

The top bishop in the State of Rhode Island, Thomas Tobin, forbids the congressman from receiving the catholic sacrament of Holy Communion. Serious penalty for practicing Catholics. Kennedy blamed the bishop's decision on his stance on abortion rights when he discussed it with the media yesterday. The church blasted the congressman's lack of discretion over the matter and released this statement.

"If a Catholic in his or her personal or professional life were knowingly and obstinately to repudiate her definite teachings on moral issues, he or she would seriously diminish his or her communion with the church."

In California, some campus protests have quieted down, at least for now. We'll tell you why students are up in arms and how parents are reacting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Checking our top stories now. Kidnappers are being blamed for the deaths of 21 people in the southern Philippines. Army officials say some 100 armed men abducted about 30 people, including the wife of a candidate for governor. The candidate blamed the abduction on the incumbent, who's controlled the area for the past decade. The Muslim-governed region is out of control of the Philippine government.

Associated Press reporting at least 26 people are dead after a ferry sank off an Indonesian Island of Sumatra. At least 254 people were rescued. Authorities are still searching for 21 people. The ferry sank after being hit by huge waves. A second ferry nearby ran aground, but all of its passengers are said to be safe.

Take a close look at this video of police searching a robbery suspect after a traffic stop. One officer had taken a piece of paper from the suspect's pocket and put it on the car's hood. The suspect eats the paper. Officers didn't notice that until they went back and reviewed the dash cam video. Bank officials say the suspect had shown the teller a note before making off with the money.

A threat to the relative peace that's lasted a decade in Northern Ireland. A pair of recent attacks linked to dissident Republicans.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, these attacks have people in Northern Ireland very, very worried at the moment. The headlines in the newspapers here, "Growing Dissident Threat is Revealed," talking about dissident Republican groups turning to violence. This newspaper here, "Undercover Police Rammed Dissidents."

This, of course, talking about how the police intercepted one of the attacks. The two attacks, one a 400-pound bomb in a car driven into the policing authority headquarters here in Belfast. The bomb failed to go off fully, according to police. What they say happened, two men driving the car rammed the police headquarters buildings. The vehicle ended up by the reception of the buildings. The two men ran away. And about half an hour later, as police were evacuating the building, that's when they say the bomb partially went off.

And about an hour before that on Saturday evening, around about 6:00 p.m. Saturday evening in the west of Northern Ireland, in a small border village called Garrison, close to the border with the south of Ireland, there was an apparent attack on a policeman. Here the police were close by. Gunshots were exchanged. At least five people, so far, have been taken into custody by the police. One of them escaped across the border. He was captured and is being held by the police in the south of Ireland at the moment. But what it has everyone worried here about is the growing threat of dissident Republicans. Meaning the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA. These, of course, the two groups, the Real IRA who killed two soldiers and marched this year, and the Continuity IRA responsible for killing one policeman earlier this year.

This is the threat that the oversight body that monitors paramilitary groups says has been growing over the past six months, growing to very significant levels. What is being said about these attacks over the weekend, the chief of police called the attack on the policing headquarters here reckless. The head of the policing authority said it was an attack on the entire community because the damage from such a large bomb would have been very widespread. And it's also been condemned by a former member of the IRA, the Sinn Fein Politician, Gerry Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERRY KELLY, SINN FEIN MEMBER: It is an attack on people. It is an attack on a lot of people. We are elected. They are not elected. These are militants, a small number of people here are trying to bring us back to 30 years ago, and we will not let it happen. We will start up again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: And what the newspapers here are also reporting is that there's been growing surveillance, a growing number of dissident Republican operatives that are under surveillance by the police. That, they said, is part and parcel of this growing dissident terror threat in Northern Ireland right now. It is, of course, very disturbing for the politicians trying to work together to move the peace agreement here that came into place 11 years ago, to move it forward.

And it is a sign for some people in Northern Ireland that violence not the levels it was in the 70s and 80s, but killings returning to their streets again. A bomb of that size in Belfast would have caused a huge amount of damage.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: So who's watching your back as a consumer? Advocates want a new government agency to protect you, but it's facing some very powerful opposition.

First, though, I want to show you this. Look at the big board. We knew the open was going to be a little bit higher today. But look at that already. We are just a few minutes into the trading day. Fifteen minutes or so. And Dow Jones Industrial Averages are already up by 147 points at the very moment. We'll continue to watch. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Well, there may be a lot more traffic for Thanksgiving travelers to deal with this coming holiday, though AAA expects only a slight increase in people traveling as a whole. They say more people are opting to drive instead of fly. A 6.7 percent decrease is expected for people who choose to fly, which actually continues a long decline in Thanksgiving air travel. The upside, AAA officials said the expected increase reflects improved consumer confidence from one year ago.

So, big question, what's the weather going to look like for all of those extra drivers out on the road, including my family right now, traveling across the country, the Outer Banks.

MARCIANO: En route to your place?

COLLINS: Yes. Over to the Outer Banks there which you are not a fan of, I hear.

MARCIANO: No, I'm a huge fan of it. I just get a little upset when I'm not invited to a place...

COLLINS: Aha, the truth comes out. Cajun turkey, you know.

MARCIANO: Oh, all right.

All right. Cajun turkey lovers, check out what's happening into Dallas field, the DFW as well -- a ground stop there right now because of low clouds and fog; Atlanta, Charlotte, same sort of deal.

And we do have some rain and it's moving up the eastern seaboard here. This is from a storm that brought all the rainfall from across the southeast over the weekend.

It's a little bit weaker now, but nonetheless it's going to wet from D.C. and this cell will slowly begin its trek up the I-95 corridor as we go through town.

All right, step by the way?

COLLINS: Oh my.

MARCIANO: How about that?

COLLINS: Would you look at that?

MARCIANO: I can't take credit for that. That's Sean Morrison on the pan.

COLLINS: Really, we waited a year and you can't even take credit for it?

MARCIANO: No, well, you know, I'm a team player.

Back to business -- flurries and some cold air coming in behind this system Wednesday and Thursday but most of the action will be across the Great Lakes and I don't think we'll see much in the way of accumulating snow but it will be breezy and wet at times. So just be aware of that if you're traveling to say the upper Midwest.

COLLINS: Yes, yes that too. All right, Rob thanks. We'll check back later on.

MARCIANO: Sounds good.

COLLINS: On college campuses in California, the city and protests have ended, the outrage has not. Yesterday at the University of California, Santa Cruz, dozens of students ended their three-day takeover of an administration building there. They are protesting big hikes and statewide tuition and cuts in campus services.

Similar demonstrations were held on other college campuses. 41 people were arrested at Berkeley, as many as 50 at UCLA.

There were also arrests at UC-Davis; more than 50 people were taken into custody after they refused to abandon their sit-ins. A CNN iReporter takes you inside the protest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we just proved here and now that we're together and that what matter is the present, not the future, not the past, right here, right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The regents need to understand that this right here is the message that we want to send to them. This tuition fees increase is being opposed by every student on this campus. They need to understand this is not the way to solve the budget crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Officials say protesters who were not arrested could still face criminal prosecution or academic penalties.

Well, the rising cost of college is creating budget nightmares for many California families and many parents are now considering some other options.

Reporter Kevin Riggs talked to worried parents. He brings us this story now from CNN's Sacramento affiliate, KCRA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN RIGGS, REPORTER, CNN AFFILIATE KCRA (voice-over): Laura Stetson and her son are campus shopping. And last week's 33 percent hike in student fees at University of California means a much wider search than usual.

LAURA STETSON, MOTHER OF PROSPECTIVE STUDENT: I think just generally, people are looking out of state. We've got a lot of friends who are looking at the Oregon schools, other PAC-10 schools. RIGGS: It's a common complaint on this campus where tuition hikes are steering interests elsewhere to community colleges and private schools.

ROMAN RABINOCICH, UC-DAVIS STUDENT: It's at a point where you're not considering your education, you're considering the cost of education and that shouldn't be the choice you have to make.

JAY LYTTON, UC-DAVIS STUDENT: It's really kind of the tipping edge in terms of what tuition should cost.

RIGGS: Last week, anger over the increased fees boiled over on this campus and elsewhere, resulting in multiple arrests. More protests are being planned, according to campus sources. And there is increasing buzz about support for higher takes.

GAVIN DUTROW, UC-DAVIS STUDENT: Higher taxes suck, but sometimes you've got to do what's necessary to save the state.

RIGGS: Earlier this year Governor Schwarzenegger told lawmakers they might need remedial math if they thought the budget problem could be solved at that time without higher taxes. Lawmakers responded by sending the governor a package of temporary tax increases. But that was then.

ROGER NIELLO (R), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Well, what we've heard out of the administration so far is that they do not view taxes as the right way to go.

RIGGS: Assemblyman Roger Niello was one of a handful of Republicans who broke ranks and voted for those taxes. He says it won't happen again. That's ok with parent Laura Stetson who is convinced the solution lies elsewhere.

STETSON: I think there are a lot of cuts that could be made at the state. A lot of, for example, the Blueberry Commission doesn't need to exist if you want a specific example.

RIGGS: In Davis, Kevin Riggs, KCRA 3 reports.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: An awful lot going on today, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. But our CNN crews, of course are in place to bring all the stories to you.

Let's start this morning with Gerri Willis in New York. Hi, Gerri.

WILLIS: Hey, some good news for job seekers. A new survey of economy shows when businesses will start to hire again, it may be sooner than you think. I'll have more at the top of the hour.

KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington, with the Senate cleared a key hurdle this weekend in the effort to overhaul the nation's health care system. But Democrats had not a vote to spare. And the road only gets tougher from here. I'll tell you what's ahead at the top of the hour.

LISOVICZ: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange, where stock and gold prices are soaring. In just a few minutes we'll see whether home sales are also higher. We'll have the numbers in the next hour -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right guys, thanks so much for that.

Also ahead --trying times for the nation's food banks; donations are down, demand is up and hunger reaches an alarming rate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A bad rating isn't the worst news you can get from credit report. A Seattle woman got one back saying she was dead. That came as a surprise to the very much alive 78-year-old. What's worse, recently she survived cancer. It turns out one of her creditors made a big mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN HOWE, LISTED AS "DEAD" ON CREDIT REPORT: Because somebody made a real ignorant mistake when they -- when they told (INAUDIBLE) that I was dead. That was a terrible blow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Getting the report corrected turned into a maze but the creditor did get it fixed, after a call from affiliate KGO-TV.

If you are treated unfairly by a creditor or bank, there's no central protection agency to turn that around. Consumer advocates want to change that.

But Jessica Yellin tells us now big business isn't exactly playing along.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's cooking.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Etta Hunte is a victim of the kind of consumer abuses that helped take this nation to the brink of economic crisis.

ETTA HUNTE, HOME FORECLOSED: I went on my own, thought I was doing the right thinking, and this is where it ended.

YELLIN: she lost the house she lived in for 17 years, after she signed a new mortgage she didn't understand and couldn't afford. Her broker did not make it clear her payments would skyrocket.

HUNTE: I'm reading it, I'm signing this thing, signing my home away, and had no idea. And no one was informing me that it's an adjustable rate. YELLIN: The problem, no single federal agency oversees all mortgages. Instead, five agencies have a hand in it, and during the subprime mortgage crisis, some companies worked the loopholes.

Elizabeth Warren is a watchdog for Congress.

ELIZABETH WARREN, WATCHDOG FOR CONGRESS: There are gaps in between and overlaps in the regulatory structure.

YELLIN: Mortgages are just one piece of a much bigger problem for consumers. Across the federal government, seven different agencies set rules for everything from loans to mortgages, credit cards and insurance products. So some companies play one regulator against another.

Now Democrats in Congress are pushing a major overhaul that would organize these powers into one new consumer protect agency.

DODD: Our plan will stop abusive practices by creating an independent consumer financial protection agency with one mission, and that is standing up for consumers.

YELLIN: Congressional Republicans oppose the Democrats' plan, but do support new streamlined consumer protections.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: I believe in regulation that makes markets more competitive. I believe in regulation that respects the rights of consumers. I don't see this happening with this particular agency.

YELLIN: But business interests, they're ready for battle and have spent more than $334 million lobbying this year; they're led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

TOM QUAADMAN, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: You're just seeing a multiplication of agencies. Big government isn't the answer.

YELLIN: He says the powerful, new agency will hurt business innovation.

QUAADMAN: It creates a scheme where you have regulators who really are starting to decide who winners and losers are.

YELLIN: Etta Hunte just wants someone to speak for her.

HUNTE: I would like them to have somebody to keep tabs on these -- all of these mortgage companies.

YELLIN (on camera): Supporters say the agency could mandate simpler contracts, sue companies for unfair practices and try to close regulatory loopholes. But critics insists it will stifle business innovation and limit consumer choice. It will be a fierce fight in the months ahead.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)